Following a massive protest against the signature, Janos Ader still gave way for the legislation
Hungary's president late yesterday signed legislation on foreign universities that could force a top international school founded by U.S. financier George Soros out of the country, triggering a fresh protest in Budapest against the move.
Tens of thousands of Hungarians had rallied on Sunday in one of the biggest demonstrations against right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban's 7-year-old rule, denouncing a law that critics and opposition parties say targets the Central European University (CEU) set up by Soros, a Hungarian-born global campaigner for liberal "open society."
Late yesterday hundreds of protesters walked to the state radio office, in a spontaneous rally, and put up a European Union flag on the building, according to a video posted on local website Index. Protesters faced a line of police and Index said police used paprika spray on them. The protest ended about 0020 GMT today.
Another protest is scheduled for tomorrow.
More than 500 leading international academics, including 17 Nobel Laureates, have come out in support of CEU, founded in Budapest in 1991 after the collapse of communism, saying it was one of the pre-eminent centres of thought in Hungary.
A sign from last week's protest: 'Why are you scared of education?'
President Janos Ader, a long-time political ally of Mr Orban, said the legislation did not infringe academic freedom or international laws and urged the government to hold talks with universities.
"It is the interest of all of us that the value created at foreign universities in Hungary in the past years should continue and accumulate further and academic work should continue undisturbed," Ader told state news agency MTI.
The president said the legislation did not infringe academic freedom or international laws
CEU said in a statement that it was willing to negotiate with the government to find a solution to enable it to stay in Budapest but that academic freedom was "not negotiable."
"The legislation constitutes a premeditated political attack on a free institution that has been a proud part of Hungarian life for a quarter of a century," the statement said. "We will oppose this legislation to the full extent of the law."
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'They shouldn't close down CEU, but Viktor Orban' another sign said
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President Orban, who faces elections in 2018, is not expected to backtrack on the legislation as it constitutes a major plank of his political strategy defending national interests against what his government calls foreign meddling in Hungarian affairs.
President Orban, whose Fidesz party has a firm lead in opinion polls, has often vilified Soros, whose ideals are squarely at odds with the Hungarian premier's view that European culture is under an existential threat from migration and multiculturalism.